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Review: Stella Glow

Nov 13 // Chris Carter
Stella Glow (3DS)Developer: ImageepochPublisher: AtlusMSRP: $49.99Release Date: November 17, 2015 Our journey begins with Alto, a young man who (surprise) has amnesia, and is found by a girl named Risette, who takes him into her mother's house. Three years later Alto encounters Hilda, a "sort of good sort of bad" witch, who is commonly referred to as "The Witch of Disaster" -- with a name like that, who wouldn't be inclined to be bad sometimes? Risette then unlocks an ancient power from one of Alto's artifacts, and becomes a witch herself -- then it's off to the royal palace, where they are tasked with hunting Hilda by recruiting more witches. You can probably guess where it goes from here. Alto is a country boy of sorts, but accepts to call to become a reluctant "aw shucks" shonen sword master. The rest of the party runs the gamut of anime tropes, and while they can occasionally get annoying, the cast is memorable enough and all sport a great set of designs. There are a few nuanced storylines peppered in, like the tale of a misunderstood witch who was doomed to live as an outcast. Another character hides her face in a cardboard box because she's shy, but wears revealing clothing. The cast is massive, and since there's no "job" switching in Stella Glow, all of them act unique both in and out of combat. Speaking of combat, much like the Arc series, it's still a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics. Utilizing chibi characters on a grid-like format, players can move about the battlefield, use items or skills, and choose to "wait" in a specific direction to guard against directional attacks. A lot of games still use the grid style because it works, even to this day. There's a certain order to it that warrants a respect beyond relegating it to "old school nostalgia," and planning out party movements and attacks is never a chore. When you're actually engaged with an enemy an Advanced Wars style miniature cutscene will play, and as expected, some characters have counter-attacks available. As previously stated, the cast really makes a different here, as some party members have access to special abilities like guarding characters they're adjacent to, which makes placement paramount. Don't expect a whole lot of depth and customization though (stats are applied instantly, and equipment management isn't all that difficult, even accounting for the materia-like socket system). [embed]320467:61085:0[/embed] Really, the game isn't all that tough in general. I feel like it will be challenging enough for those of you who don't keep up with the genre, but for veterans, you'll rarely find a taxing quest until later in the storyline. This is partially due to the fact that the AI isn't overly aggressive, and tends to hang back more, waiting for a better opportunity to strike. On the flipside, that means that there's no frustrating fake difficulty spikes for the sake of it. Like most SRPGs, Stella is hella long. There's at least 40 hours of gameplay here if you only opt for the story, and leveling up characters, locating the additional endings (over 10), completing sidequests and sidestories will likely elevate it to double that. Like most games with a billion endings, your mileage may vary depending on your affinity towards a specific character, but the ones I saw ranged from unsatisfying to sufficient. For those you are wondering, the voicework is in English, and the songs, which are heavily woven into the game's narrative, are performed in Japanese. In many ways, Stella Glow is a by-the-numbers strategy RPG, but it does have a partially interesting cast, some unique storylines, and a working combat system. Imageepoch has had some ups and downs in their lengthy career, but thankfully they can at least end on somewhat of a high note. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Stella Glow photo
Imageepoch's swan song
That's all she wrote for Imageepoch. The developer responsible for the Luminos Arc series and Arc Rise Fantasia filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, and it seems like they're out of the industry entirely with the laun...

Review: Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance

Sep 22 // Chris Carter
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance (PS4)Developer: NIS Publisher: NIS Released: October 6, 2015MSRP: $59.99 This time around, Void Dark, an evil overlord, sparks the largest Netherworld war in history. As a result of essentially alienating the entire galaxy, a heap of rival overlords rise up in revolt, one of which is led by the stoic warrior Killia. Because of the focus on global (or universal) conflict, the narrative feels more sprawling in Alliance of Vengeance, which works both for and against it. This is more of a gradual story, building up over time, than the small-group feel of most of the series. Hell, in Disgaea 3, the main character wants to kill his dad for smashing his video games. As a result, the characters aren't quite as crazy or manic as Laharl and Mao -- they have bigger things at stake. Killia's silent archetype does get old after a while, but his style actually works from a gameplay perspective, so I never felt fully disconnected from him. Seraphina, the Princess Overlord of the Gorgeous, is a bit more annoying. She has that "hohohoho!" laugh that's popular in anime, and her jokes of dominating everyone around her get old very quickly. But like all Disgaea characters, she opens up over time and reveals more depth, particularly with her backstory. She also fills in for Etna in-between chapters, delivering the comedic interludes that are clearly too absurd to be canon. There are plenty of side-conversations to have, and an archive function in the game's hub world allows players to re-watch cutscenes or dialog bits. Ailliance of Vengeance's weakest point is probably the narrative this time around. Particularly for the first 10 hours or so, the pace is relatively slow. You know nothing of the true motivations of most of the cast, and the main draw seems to be "fight, fight, fight until we get to Void Dark." You'll get a few flashes of story here and there, but for the most part it's one-dimensional, at least for the first half. [embed]309993:60317:0[/embed] As for the rest of the cast, it's about par for the course -- you have your meathead, your subservient Prinnies, your overconfident youngsters, and so on. There wasn't anyone I outright loved like Almaz or Mr. Champloo from Disgaea 3, but no one is excessively annoying or not worth using during missions. I've always felt like Disgaea is what you make it, party-wise. Since the class creation system is more robust than ever, you can literally custom-tailor your own characters if you don't like the core cast. It helps that the animations are beautiful, as is the artwork. It's not going to push the PS4 even close to its limits, but it's far better looking than the last entries on PS3, and it's crazy how gorgeous anime-style games look on current consoles. It's all so smooth, colorful, and well-crafted. Even characters that belong to the same class look different enough, especially when they wield a variety of weapons, which yield their own sets of personality. Disgaea 5 kicks off in record time, as you're placed into the main hub in minutes. Like every other game in the series, you'll launch missions from here, equip your party, and shoot the breeze with various NPCs. The tools available are a bit more expansive than other games, most notably the crazy character creation mechanic I mentioned above. In addition to a name and color scheme, you'll also be able to hire them at your current level, alter their personality, and change every single one of their skills if you wish. For instance, you could create a fury-crazed warrior with a red hue named Immortan Joe, debuff his ranged attacks, and reapply those points into close-combat, high-risk abilities. As usual, the "all at once" player turns in combat work splendidly. If you've never played a Disgaea game before, your entire team gets to do their turn, and then the enemy team does theirs. It's an interesting juxtaposition to the alternating scheme used in most SRPGs, and it's even more nuanced when you take into account the "execute" function that lets you play out part of your turn in the order that you selected. This is on top of the crazy counter-attacks that will play out randomly (as well as counter-counters and counter-counter-counters), and team-up attacks that initiate when you're near a party member on the grid. You also need to watch for enemy "Evilties" this time, which may produce effects like making foes stronger next to other baddies, and so on. Likewise, your team has their own set of Evilties, like Seraphina's ability to do more damage to males. Combined with the Geo system (colored zones that also provide buffs or debuffs), you'll have to pay attention at all times to get the most out of a battle. Eventually, you'll unlock the power to place characters in "Support Squads," granting them special bonuses with the caveat that each squad is limited in number. Oh, and there's the Revenge system that powers up characters after the death of a connected party member, the Item World and council system return, and new classes like Dark Knights (one of my new favorites), Maids (an item-based class), and Fairies (who absorb magic) join the fray. Thankfully, there are a lot of game options to customize the experience as well, including jacking up the movement speed during hub sequences, upping combat speed, skipping animations, and auto-scrolling conversations, which are mostly fully-voiced. While I don't have access to it yet and it didn't influence this review, Alliance of Vengeance still has the contentious DLC strategy as past titles. I feel like the series has enough content to last you at least 100 hours on its own, but I still don't like the idea of selling fan-favorite characters piecemeal directly after launch. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance may not have the best story or cast in the series, but it gets the job done, and brings a ton of advancements with it in the process. I'll probably be playing this one for years to come, and I sincerely hope NIS is able to continue this series. It's still one of the best SRPG franchises in the business. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Disgaea 5 review photo
Finding The Lost
I can count on the Disgaea series. While NIS always seems to be trying to recreate the magic of the initial release, every game manages to capture the essence of SRPGs in a charming and robust manner. The story isn't as impressive as the last entry, but Alliance of Vengeance has made a number of advancements to the Disgaea formula.

Project X Zone 2 dated photo
Project X Zone 2 dated

Project X Zone 2 will arrive overseas in February

2/16 for the US, 2/19 for EU
Sep 16
// Chris Carter
Today at TGS, Bandai Namco announced that Project X Zone 2 will arrive in the US on February 16, and in Europe on February 19. This isn't too far off from the Japanese release, which is still on track for November 12, 2015. I'll have my first hands-on impressions to share soon.
Final Fantasy Tactics photo
Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is on Android now

Jun 08
// Chris Carter
Square Enix has released the mobile version of Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (itself a remake originally debuting on PSP) on Android devices. It's basically the same version as the iOS release from 2011, with touch ...

Liege trailer photo
Liege trailer

Liege is like chess, but with more face-stabbery

It's looking badass in this new GDC/PAX East trailer
Feb 25
// Rob Morrow
Coda Games' sole developer John Rhee just uploaded a revealing new pre-expo teaser for his Kickstarter-funded SRPG trilogy, Liege. In it, we get to see the most recent gameplay footage of the elegant, turn-based/tactica...
Disgaea 5 confirmed photo
Disgaea 5 confirmed

Disgaea 5 will come to North America and Europe in 2015

Alliance of Vengeance coming to Western PS4s
Dec 17
// Steven Hansen
'Dis guy, ehhh? At the Tokyo Game Show we learned Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance (awful subtitle*) was coming to PS4 in 2015. NIS America has confirmed it will be available in North America and Europe in the fall of 20...
Luminous Arc Infinity photo
Luminous Arc Infinity

Luminous Arc Infinity will have multiple endings

Hopefully there will be a UFO one
Sep 04
// Brittany Vincent
Famitsu has released details about Luminous Arc Infinity, the sequel to Marvelous's strategy RPG series for PlayStation Vita. It is said that the game will have multiple endings that are completely different from one another,...
Disgaea 5 photo
Disgaea 5

Disgaea 5 pumps up the volume of characters on-screen

Pump it up!
Sep 03
// Brittany Vincent
Disgaea 5 will be the biggest game in the series to date, stated developer Nippon Ichi Software's president Sohei Niikawa. He stated that the company had considered designing the game to be multi-platform with a release on th...
NIS at E3 2014 photo
NIS at E3 2014

NIS takes us to an island paradise, battles us, then travels back in time

A new series mingles with sequels at NIS' E3 preview
Jun 16
// Natalie Kipper
NIS was a bit of a hidden treasure at E3. The publisher shared a booth with Atlus and it took me stopping and actually looking at what was on display at the demo station to put two and two together. The search was well worth it because I was rewarded with a closer look at three upcoming titles: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited, and Natural Doctrine.
Nintendo new IP revealed photo
Nintendo new IP revealed

Watch the debut footage of Nintendo's big new 3DS game Code Name: STEAM

So this is what it was really like
Jun 13
// Kyle MacGregor
The Code Name: STEAM reveal was an interesting experience. Destructoid's Dale North was on hand at Nintendo’s developer roundtable in Los Angeles Wednesday night, and none of us were sure what he'd see at the...

Tactical RPG Eiyuu Senki is coming to North America and Europe

For the first time in English
May 06
// Dale North
Cute Japanese tactical RPG/visual novel Eiyuu Senki is coming to the PS3 in both North America and Europe. This was developed by Tenco and published in Japan by MAGES (part of 5pb.Games) last year, and now independent localiz...
Super Heroine Chronicle photo
Super Heroine Chronicle

Super Heroine Chronicle is one game NA will never see

Though stranger things have happened
Jan 25
// Wesley Ruscher
If it's one thing An American Tale taught me, it's to "never say never." But come on, what really are the chances of Super Heroine Chronicle landing on North American shores? It takes the mash-up wackiness of the Super Robot...
kickstarter photo

Yasumi Matsuno launches Kickstarter for Unsung Story

Developer for Vagrant Story and Tactics Ogre working on new game
Jan 14
// Alessandro Fillari
Sometime after the release of Crimson Shroud, strategy RPG mastermind Yasumi Matsuno teased a brand new title he was in the process of developing. As the director of such titles as Tactics Ogre, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy ...
Record of Agarest War  photo
Record of Agarest War

Breed heroes on Android with Record of Agarest War

Idea Factory RPG now on sale till end of the year!
Dec 21
// Wesley Ruscher
Strategy role-playing game Record of Agarest War is now out for Android devices. Published by HyperDevbox Studio, the unique Japanese title -- that lets you breed heroes over multiple generations -- is available at a spe...

Impressions: Rainbow Moon (Vita)

Dec 03 // Ian Bonds
Rainbow Moon (PS3, Vita)Developer: SideQuest StudiosPublisher: EastAsiaSoftReleased: July 10, 2012 (PS3) / December 3, 2013 (Vita)MSRP: $14.99 When Rainbow Moon released last year, it was to little fanfare, and less-than-favorable reviews. Some strategy fans seemed to enjoy it, at least, as proven by this Vita port almost two years later. And let me be straight with you: this is a port in the strictest sense of the word. Very little has changed between the original download on PS3 and this PSN title for Vita. If you missed the title previously, it's your typical open world SRPG, full of random battles as well as foes you can see on screen to fight with. What sets Rainbow Moon apart is the ability to choose whether or not to engage in the random encounters with unseen foes with a simple button press, as well as choosing to walk around or up to the foes you can see. Battles themselves are set up on a grid-like system, moving square by square, turn by turn, tactically moving around your enemies for your best advantage. It's the most basic form of a strategy RPG, but it works well, which is good considering you'll be doing it a lot. As before, Rainbow Moon hinges most of it's gameplay on grinding to level up, only to grind further for items to improve your battle stats so that you can grind again on higher level beasties. So, what has changed? Well, for starters, there's cross-save, allowing you to continue your quest on the go from your console version, and vice versa, which is quite nice if you prefer your grinding while on the go. Also, much of the game has been streamlined, at least as far as menus go. Scrolling through through menus, matching collected items to upgrade weapons, and organizing your inventory seems faster. In fact, Rainbow Moon actually seems best suited for the handheld, as it's short quests, simplistic battle structure, and save anywhere features work best in short bursts. However, the port doesn't really take advantage of the new hardware at all. Touch screen functionality is non-existent, and while most won't gripe too much with that, it does seem odd that it's been completely neglected. Graphically, you're looking at the same game from PS3, and the short, colorful characters are beautiful, with plenty of background animation and expressive characteristics to give the world a fully-alive feel. Sadly, I wish the characteristics of you and your party members last throughout the game -- as before, whenever you add someone to your party, all manner of personality interaction with them disappears. It's as if once you gain a party member, they're merely another body with which to fight your foes, and their storyline ends with them joining you. And therein lies the biggest problem here, just like the PS3 version. While there is plenty to do in this over 50+ hour epic quest (and even more in side quests), the story itself is largely unremarkable. You arrive, monsters are there, you fight them...and that's pretty much it. While there is plenty to do as far as number of quests and missions, the reason behind why you're doing it is left mostly ambiguous. What you're left with is a game that has you grinding for the sake of defeating enemies, so that you can grind again to defeat higher-powered enemies -- and so on, and so forth. If that sort of thing appeals to you, now you can have it on the go. Aside from that, there's not much reason to chose one version over the other.
Rainbow Moon photo
Pretty much the same, but portable
Strategy RPGs seem to thrive on handheld systems. While many are released on console, it often takes a port to a portable build for gamers to take notice. With a sequel already in the works, EastAsiaSoft has seen fit to port last year's Rainbow Moon from PS3 to Vita, and the experience remains mostly intact from the console version. This is both to its credit and its detriment.

Rainbow Moon photo
Rainbow Moon

Rainbow Moon touches down on Vita this December

Special discount for owners of the PS3 version
Nov 02
// Wesley Ruscher
While we already knew that Rainbow Moon was making its way over to the PS Vita, publisher EastAsiaSoft has finally set a date for the game's release. The quirky strategy-RPG lands on North American shores this December ...

Review: Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness

Oct 07 // Chris Carter
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (PS3)Developer: Nippon Ichi SoftwarePublisher: Nippon Ichi SoftwareReleased: October 8, 2013 (NA) / September 27 (EU)MSRP: $49.99 If you've never played a Disgaea game before, the focus is decidedly on nonsensical fun, with a touch of anime-style insanity. Disgaea's trademark humor is back, including Etna's anime interludes, Prinny debauchery, and other silly sideshows. The voice acting ranges from over the top to top notch, and if there's any downside to D2's presentation, it's that the game assumes you already know the characters inside and out -- so if you haven't played the first one, either seek it out or read about the main characters a bit before you dive in. Tonally, D2 is also in a different spot. Whereas the first game had a story that was nonsensical as well, there were a few brief moments that hit hard and touched on concepts like sacrifice, morality, and death -- with a few surprises along the way. There's basically none of that in D2. Instead, you'll experience more craziness, like Laharl turning into a girl, or Laharl finding his long-lost angelic sister. But so long as you're not expecting some earth-shattering revelations, all of that silliness is totally worth watching, and it's in the spirit of the franchise -- in a good way. As is the case with previous games in the franchise, Disgaea isn't exactly on what you'd call the cutting edge of visuals. Although the character designs (both new and old) are top-notch stuff, the actual in-game models leave much to be desired, especially near the end of the PS3's lifecycle. It's all pretty low-tech, but thankfully the interface is still as sleek and as effective as ever, so you shouldn't have much trouble navigating your way into any of the game's hundreds of options. Disgaea D2 is a strategy RPG (SRPG) through and through, as battles take place on a grid-like board in a turned-based fashion. But instead of taking turns individually, the way Disgaea works is you take turns as a team, then the entire AI side goes. So basically, you can plan out each and every move for your entire party, and take it all back, initiate every action at once, or use the "execute" menu option to only queue up certain abilities. It's an easy to understand yet complex system that really makes the combat sequences in Disgaea special, since you need to learn how to plan out everything at once. In short, everything you do could potentially combine with something else whether that's a team attack or just a matter of positioning that varies with every skirmish. The key to Disgaea is that you need to think about almost every individual move you make -- especially on some of the more difficult boss battles. With that said, D2 is probably one of the easiest games in the franchise to pick up mechanically, as it's all laid out to you in the very beginning in a comprehensive tutorial. The only problem is the story jumps in assuming you already know the characters, making for a somewhat jarring juxtaposition. Customization is king in Disgaea, and it's just as lively in D2. Using a tool called the Dark Assembly, you can create your own custom party right after the tutorial, and pretty much roll the exact way you want to. If you're keen on creating a ton of weak fighters to help set up combos -- that's cool. If you want to create a select few powerful casters first or attempt a more defensive strategy, that's cool too. You can also set up your party to be apprentices to certain classes and characters, learning their master's abilities in the process, and creating hybrids. New to D2, you can also raise party affinity levels (which are referred to as "likeability" levels) to connect them to certain party members for added bonuses. Mounting creatures and riding them around is a new feature, which isn't as fun as it sounds outside of a few test runs. Although, it finally does carve a niche for monsters that really wasn't as sound as before, and it's far superior to the Magichange system of previous games. You can also change the game the way you want to, like raising or lowering experience or currency rates. Although this was always an option to an extent, D2 takes it to an extreme, with a mechanic called the "Cheat Shop." The concept of the Disgaea series is pretty simple -- if you can dream it within the confines of an SRPG shell, you can do it. Various mechanics from past games are pretty much all here, like the ability to combo attacks when next to each other. Geo Panels also return from the old games, adding a puzzle element to the proceedings, coloring different pieces of the grid with different modifiers like "enemies do 50% extra damage when on green tiles." Throwing returns as well, which allows you to create stacks of characters and reach areas you otherwise wouldn't be able to while walking. Again, character placement is key. The Item World returns, and like other entries' iterations of the concept, it doesn't disappoint. As one of the wackiest concepts to ever grace gaming, every single item has a "world" that you can give into, with a certain amount of "floors" in it. As you progress to each floor, your item will become stronger. When combined with the ability to "reincarnate" and start all over from level one (with a certain degree of prior stats) and raising the difficulty by way of the Dark Assembly to the maximum, the race for level 9999 and top item levels can result in hundreds of hours of gameplay. As a result of its mixed messages, Disgaea D2 is in an odd spot. It's a tad easier than previous games, but it also unmistakeably requires a good amount of series knowledge to really get into it and appreciate the characters. But I do have good news -- if you want more Disgaea, this delivers. Even if you've skipped every single iteration since the first, you can jump right into D2 like nothing ever happened, and enjoy it all the same.
Disgaea D2 reviewed photo
It's Disgaea, dood
I've been playing tactical games since the NES, but there was something about the Disgaea franchise that really resonates with me. Offering up a ridiculous level of customization and refinement, Disgaea sat upon a pedestal in...

Tears to Tiara II photo
Tears to Tiara II

Sneak a peek at the Tears to Tiara 2 opening cinematic

Strategy-RPG fun for more ages
Jul 14
// Wesley Ruscher
What was once an eroge series in Japan, Tears to Tiara has since dropped its erotic ways jumping over to the PlayStation 3 console with a more teen friendly remake. Following a five year absence since its debut on Sony's con...
Disgaea D2 photo
Disgaea D2

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness brings the... Bomberman?

Monster ride system introduces more quirky attack animations
Jun 11
// Jayson Napolitano
NIS America took some time today to show us the "piggyback" or "monster ride" system in this Disgaea sequel where characters can mount non-humanoid characters and unleash some devastating (and often comical) attacks. One such...
Project X Zone photo
Project X Zone

Can you handle this Project X Zone character spotlight?

It's almost my entire childhood in two minutes
May 09
// Chris Carter
Project X Zone has a new trailer, and it shows off a ton of characters that will be appearing in the project. If you've been following the game for a while now you won't find any surprises. But for a lot of you some of the a...
Fire Emblem Censored photo
Fire Emblem Censored

This Fire Emblem scene was too hot for North America

Sorry America, no butt for you
May 03
// Vito Gesualdi
Nintendo has done a fantastic job supporting Fire Emblem: Awakening so far, with new DLC dropping so frequently it's hard to make time for it all. However it was yesterday's map release that caught the eye of NeoGAF board mem...
Fire Emblem sales photo
Fire Emblem sales

New maps are on the way for Fire Emblem: Awakening

Over 240,000 copies sold to date, one third through eShop
Apr 18
// Abel Girmay
During a press junket following yesterday's Nintendo Direct, Nintendo showed off a few of the new maps to follow the commercial and critical acclaimed Fire Emblem: Awakening. Awakening has already seen a steady release of wee...

Disgaea Dimension 2 features a new hub, Laharl's sister

Sicily looks like a welcome addition
Dec 20
// Chris Carter
More news is starting to roll in for Disgaea Dimension 2, and it's looking better and better as time goes on. It looks like a new cast member will join in for this direct continuation of Hour of Darkness: Laharl's younger sis...

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